A group of suspected poachers were allegedly killed by a pack of lions this week after they snuck onto a South African game reserve likely in search of rhino horns, Herald Live reports.
According to a statement by Sibuya Game Reserve owner Nick Fox, the group likely broke into the park sometime Sunday night or early Monday morning armed with a high-powered rifle, food, and an ax often used to remove the lucrative rhino horn. But the weapons were apparently no help to the group when they found themselves face-to-face with some angry lions.
It wasn't until Tuesday that Fox said he and his workers found shoes and human remains—including a skull—scattered near the lions' den.
"The only body part we found was one skull and one bit of pelvis, everything else was completely gone," Fox told Newsweek. "There is so little left that they don’t know exactly how many people were killed, we suspect three because we found three sets of shoes and three sets of gloves."
Fox then called the police, who collected the rifle to check if it had been used in any previous poaching crimes. A local police spokesman also told Herald Live that the collected human remains would undergo forensic testing to uncover more information.
Poachers kill more than 1,000 rhinos every year in South Africa alone, according to Save the Rhino, and Sibuya was previously targeted back in 2016 when poachers murdered three of the reserve's rhino population and cut off their horns for sale on the black market. This time, though, the park's rhinos apparently had some lions watching their backs.
"The lions are our watchers and guardians and [the victims] picked the wrong pride and became a meal," Fox told the Daily Express in an interview. "Whilst we are saddened at any loss of life, the poachers came here to kill our animals and this sends out a very clear message to any other poachers that you will not always be the winner."
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